Okla. Ethics Panel Reprimands Fisher

July 12, 2004

A two-count public reprimand was handed down recently by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission against state Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher, The Associated Press reported.

Fisher is the target of a House impeachment inquiry and has been charged with felonies in district court for allegedly violating laws governing use of state funds and operating a charity.

He also was reprimanded by the Ethics Commission in 2003 for persuading an insurance company to give him information from a political opponent’s personnel file.

Despite his troubles, the 64-year-old Democratic official is running for his party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate and will be on the ballot in the July 27 primary.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Fisher said he had been wrongly accused and had never intentionally broken any law. He said he would “stand the heat of day” and planned to use the Senate race as a forum to get his story out to the public.

Fisher did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment on the latest ethics reprimand.

The two-count Ethics Commission reprimand was issued on a unanimous vote of the five-member panel.

The first count faulted Fisher for soliciting Farmers & Merchants Insurance Co. to take part in a risk capital venture offered by Rural Oklahoma Capital Alliance.

In a Jan. 8, 2003, letter to John P. Cavoores of Farmers & Merchants, Fisher said rural Oklahoma was in a crisis and a development of a pool of risk capital was needed to “support entrepreneurship in a rural economy.

“The Rural Oklahoma Capitol Alliance proposes to do just that. I encourage Farmers & Merchants Insurance Co. to consider becoming a part of this opportunity.”

The Ethics Commission found the letter violated a rule that provides that no state employee shall use his position to make such solicitations except in the performance of his duties.

Commissioners decided unanimously that soliciting participants in a risk capital fund is not a function of the insurance agency nor among the duties of the commissioner.

They also said they believe “an appearance of coercion arises when the recipient of the letter is a company you regulate.”

The second count said Fisher misused his office by preparing a letter soliciting others to advertise in a former employee’s football magazine.

The letter was written in August 2002, on behalf of Kevin Garcia. In the letter, Fisher said he would like to see Garcia succeed with his Sooner State Football News.

The commission held that the violation occurred when Fisher provided Garcia with the letter and it did not matter if Garcia disseminated it.

“After a thorough investigation, the commission found that the material facts were not in dispute,” said John Luton, commission chairman.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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